She was just trying to help. “Susan” flushed her husband’s pain pills down the toilet, hoping to make it easier for “James” to stay sober.
Instead, strung out and frustrated, he retaliated by assaulting her.
Susan (not her real name) didn’t suffer any serious injuries but she wasn’t taking any chances, either. She swore out a complaint and James (also not his actual name) found himself in front of Knox District Judge John Paul Chappell.
James, 27, a high school dropout, has been receiving a disability check since he was in school and can’t hold a job. Susan is a food service worker, making minimum wage, which along with James’ disability check, is all the income they have to support themselves and their two elementary school-aged children.
Susan wants James to come home, but only if he can stay off drugs. Facing jail time, James
If he goes to jail, it’ll cost the county about $11,000 a year and he won’t get help for his drug problem.
James’ and Susan’s best, maybe only, hope is Joanne Sizemore, a social worker for the Department of Public Advocacy.
Sizemore is one of only eight social workers statewide who are assigned to cases like James’ by the DPA, the public defenders’ office. She works out of the London DPA office and works with offenders in Laurel, Whitley, Knox, Clay and Leslie counties.
Clearly, she’s stretched pretty thin. Sometimes she is in court in one county when a client is before a judge in another.
The program works — it has an 80 percent success rate — at least where it’s available.
Wednesday, DPA’s social worker alternative sentencing program was recognized as one of the 25 most innovative government programs in the country by the Ash Center for Democratic Governance at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.